Its Thanksgiving taday and a national holiday here in Canada. The harvest is in and we celebrate with food. Not everyone does. Turkeys don’t. They are terrified of Thanksgiving. They haven’t been able ta figure out why humans must stuff and roast ‘em and eat them only today.
But Turkeys are dumb. I remember visiting a friend’s poultry farm a couple of years back, a joint that did brisk business during Thanksgiving and I watched as customers pointed to the birds they wanted and the farmhand grabbed them and sliced off their necks. They flipped and flopped for almost half a minute, while the rest of the Turkeys (maybe his bros and cousins), just looked on blandly and strutted around just a few feet away, picking off grain from the ground, the expressions in their eyes inscrutable, unblinking.
Who gives a shit anyway? Its a holiday today and that’s all that matters. After the sun comes up and its a bit warmer, I am going ta amble over to the riverside and maybe have a platter of fish ‘n’ chips. Peter’s Cod, by the lock gates, serves awesome cod, so fresh that you can still hear them grumbling about how dumb they were, to have been caught.
In my country of birth, India, thanksgiving is known by a variety of names, depending on the province you are from… Basant Panchami, Pongal, Onam, Baisakhi, Makar Sankranti, Gudhi Padwa, Ugadi – as many as there are provinces in India. Being harvest festivals, there is a lot of food, but we don’t eat turkey there, since turkeys have never been a natural part of the Indian fauna.
Turkeys however are known by names that suggest they originated on India. ‘Dinde’, the French name for turkey meat, literally means ‘of/from India’. The Arabs call it ‘Diiq Hindi’ (Indian rooster) and the Russians ‘Indjushka’ (bird of India). They say that the man responsible for making the world believe turkeys came from India was a richardhead named Christopher Columbus, but that’s another story.
Indian harvest festival dates follow the lunar calendar and can range from October to April, while Canada’s harvest festival, Thanksgiving, is set in stone, for the second Monday of October, which it happens ta be taday. (The Americans have it on the fourth Thursday of November).
I hate turkey. Its too stringy and fibrous and doesn’t taste nearly as good as chicken. Of course, if you serve it to me in the compacted smoked salami format – with one of the Artois sisters named Stella, frothing and foaming in my hand – I don’t mind having turkey.
So, lets change the subject, shall we?
Yesterday, the kid who lives in my house and I spent some real quality time together, after a long while. He is 16 and somehow there never seems to be any time these days to just sit and have a gabfest. Between his friends, his PlayStation and his studies, there is hardly any time for his dad to get a word in edgewise. But yesterday I was in the den watching a CNN video preview of the 2nd US Presidential debate, when the kid came downstairs (something he rarely does) and kinda lingered, pottering around, before he came to a halt in front of my easy chair and announced,”I’m going for a walk, just want ta get some fresh air, bin at the PlayStation since morning…”
“Good idea,” I said, dropping the Erma Bombeck on my lap and looking up at him. “Want me ta come along?”
“Sure, if you want ta…” Uncharacteristic of him – wanting me to join him for a walk. I was thrilled of course. Maybe there’ll be a moment when I can give him a hug and muss his hair a bit. (He doesn’t let me cuddle him anymore). I sprang up and pulled on my jeans and we were off.
We began in silence, down 8th Ave, which merges into Blvd Perrot where the road turns steep and as he strode effortlessly on, I huffed and puffed up the slope and he fidgeted, having ta slow down for me. Not a word had passed between us.
After a while the road leveled off and we turned right at St Joseph, a beautiful maple-lined boulevard that is beginning ta turn red, orange and pink. I stopped frequently to take pictures with the dinky Nikon which has been virtually a part of me for a couple of years now. I have dropped it, stepped on it, let it soak in the rain, but it still works perfectly. If you’re looking to buy a camera, go for Nikon.
I’m not sure when but the kid was soon chattering away, about his PlayStation and the new Hit Man updates, his love of math and finally about his plans for today – a double date with a close friend, by the riverside. He wants to go into academics, probably theoretical physics – anything that has a lot of math – and I began holding forth on how he must prepare for MIT or Stanford or Cornell and how getting into the JPL should be the ultimate goal. Imagine being a part of a future Mars mission, I said to him excitedly.
We were babbling animatedly by now and it remained that way till we crossed at the Don Quichotte traffic lights and turned right at Chen Bleu, where for no apparent reason, we began ta run – I mean the kid broke into a sprint while I stumbled on behind. Actually the road had turned downhill here and it wasn’t too hard. I keep myself in reasonable shape. Women mistake me for Clint Eastwood sometimes, honest, would I lie to ya?
Soon the kid was a distant speck. Was it just the other day, when he would race ahead, his tiny feet furiously pedaling on his equally tiny tricycle and I would be screaming myself hoarse, “Slow down, slow down!!” and he would somehow miraculously come to a halt just by the traffic lights and look back and grin as I huffed and wheezed up to him.
At Grand Blvd, we turned and the kid and I stopped for a coffee at the Second Cup, a cafe that has a comfy lounge theme – wicker chairs and sofas and coffee tables with the day’s newspapers strewn over them and nooks where students sit and tap on their tablets.
We sat there and jabbered away until the kid said,” I was wondering if its okay if I upgrade the Apple watch to the series-2. It has many more features. It’ll be a $200 hit, even with the buy-back…..”
“Have you asked your Mama about it?” I said, “What does she have ta say?”
He nodded yes. “Ask your father, its okay by me, she said….” We deliberated on the upgrade a while. When it comes to expenditures, the kid is wise beyond his years and in the end he by himself decided to let it be for the time being. There really wasn’t a big deal about the new series anyway, he said.
The afternoon sped by like a dream and by the time we were back home, dusk had fallen. The kid had messages from his girlfriend and he disappeared into his room and I trudged down the stairs to the den. The debate was about ta begin and I didn’t want ta miss the moment Trump and Hillary made their entry.
As I settled into the easy chair, it came back to me in a rush – when I was little, every time I went to my dad about something that needed an expenditure, he would always nod gravely and in that cold and impersonal tone of his, say,” Have you asked your Ma about it? What does she say?” My Ma was a housewife (just like the kid’s mom) and my dad really didn’t need to have her acquiescence on any purchase, but he valued her opinion anyway. By his actions, my dad taught us kids something there.
An oblique lesson settles inside you and becomes a part of your ethos, without you knowing you learned it.